May 25: “The leadership of the party is upper caste”

May 25, 2014

Interview of Razzak Molla by Amal Sarkar, published in Bengali newspaper Ei Samay.

[In this interview of 25 March, 2014, Razzak Molla, MLA, former peasants’ leader of CPI(M) who has been expelled, presciently remarked, “Demise of CPM is inevitable. By demise I mean a CPI-like condition. There was a time when CPI had nation-wide presence and power. Where is it now? After the Lok Sabha elections an infighting will break out in CPM. To turn around one needs to change the structure. None has the guts here to change the structure. I suggested a change in the leadership long ago.”

We reproduce a translation of the interview to contribute to the debate of what went wrong with CPI(M) in West Bengal. The interview touches upon inner party democracy, dominance of upper caste Hindus in the leadership, along with the not-unrelated question of land acquisition. -Ed]

Ei Samay: At which time and for what reason your conflict with the party started?

Razzak Molla: The main reason was land. It was toward the fag end of 2005, I was the Land Reform minister then. Suddenly, land survey started in Bhangor, keeping me in the dark. It came to light that a project for Salim group would start there. Before this, Buddhadeb babu wanted to acquire land in Bhangor for building grand prix tracks. He said, industrialists love such things. Then there was Purnendu Chatterjee, the industrialist, he was the blue eyed boy of the party then, he wanted to build Lake Land City in Bamonghata surrounding a five hundred acre fishery. I took my men there and blocked both these projects. I said, I would not allow the humble rice plate of the poor to be snatched away. Anil Biswas was the state secretary of the party. I sent him a letter protesting the Salim project and resigned from the minister post. He called us for a settlement. It was agreed that Buddhadeb babu would make a statement that no land would be taken in Bhangor. After this Singur broke out. I said, one cannot ripen a raw jackfruit by punching it (“do not try to force issues”). After this they, that is, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Nirupam Sen etc., tried their best to harass me. Industry ministry was made superior to the Land ministry. I lost control over the developments. I said, if the humble rice plate of the peasant is snatched away it has to be replaced by another plate. They would not keep quiet if it is replaced by a sal leaf. They did not understand the implications. They are people from upper stratum after all. Our party is against Special Economic Zones. It is against foreign direct investments. So, I raised questions on the Salim project. They tried to gift away land worth hundreds of crores of rupees for a pittance of 27 crore rupees. I said, this is not done. So, they acquired the land through Industry ministry. At a point it was said that industrialisation is not taking place because of my non-cooperation. I sent a letter to Biman Bose that I don’t want to stay on as a minister. In Solop, Howrah, land was sold for the Salim suburban city project at the price of 1980. I objected, I was ignored. By giving away land worth hundred of crores of rupees to industrialists harm was done to the state exchequer.

ES: If a commission of inquiry is constituted on these?

RM: I will divulge all, I shall show every paper. But I don’t think that the chief minister has any inclination for this. She is getting an inquiry done through CID. She should have done a departmental inquiry.

ES: Did you not inform all this to the higher authorities of the party?

RM: I went to Delhi and told Prakash Karat. He assured that he is sending a letter to the state committee so that the government does not go ahead with Salim. I returned to Kolkata and asked, where is the letter? They started to hum and haw. I asked, in whose interest is the letter to the state committee being suppressed? The entire state secretariat kept mum. Why?

ES: After that?

RM: After a meeting of the state committee Buddhadeb babu informed me that I was living in the Jurassic age. I replied, you will be living in the Jurassic Park. And he actually went there after losing the elections. I raised several questions within the party. Specially the question about the fact that the party is withering in every state including West Bengal. But in different places parties with caste-based politics or whatever are expanding. We need to pay attention to this. I was told we don’t do caste politics. I replied, you are Marxist, aren’t you? Why are you fleeing from the reality? I said at the Vijaywada party plenum that the problems of the downtrodden cannot be sidestepped by labeling them caste politics. I saw that a committee was formed under Vrinda Karat look after the tribal issues. I asked, why not one for the Dalits and Muslims? The leaders replied that the tribals are a small part, the most downtrodden. We are trying to do something for them. I said, this is no logic at all.

ES: What is your parameter?

RM: It is definitely economic. I am respectful to Marxism-Leninism. But I think, where there are problems of caste, unless they are solved class struggle cannot progress. Caste struggle is the pre-condition for class-struggle in this country. Class struggle is turning into failure because we are not grasping the pre-condition. We are groping for Jayalalithaa, Mulayam, Lalu and Neetish’s charity instead. Had we practiced caste struggle we would have come on top in their states. There would have been no need to placate them.

ES: What did the party say?

RM: The party answered that these things are not allowed in communist parties. I said, in this party in the name of democratic centralism there is only centralism. There is zero democracy. And there is only party bureaucracy in the name of centralism. I was told there is no party bureaucracy. You are allowed to speak. I said, yes you allow me to speak but then you take decisions in protest of which I have to raise my hand. Can we not have a system where the dissenting voice could be circulated to the lower levels of the party? There is the party letter that is released – please write there that a few of us disagree with the decision. After that our comrades may themselves try to find out who disagreed, why they disagreed. I further said, in the party conference why are the committees constituted in elections which are not contested? Why are you afraid of voting? Let us request panels from the floor. Why should the leadership impose leaders? Let the workers elect their leaders. I asked, there are nineteen districts in Bengal, why does not a single district have a Muslim secretary? Murshidabad has 67% Muslim population. Why should Mriganka Bhattacharya be the district secretary there? Is Mainul Hasan a mason? I was told, leaders emerge through movements. I replied, then create leaders. When Promode Dasgupta found that old leaders were expiring one by one, he filled the gaps by a bunch of hand-picked people. None of them were leaders. But they became state committee leaders. Among them only Subhashda (late Subhash Chakraborty) was in the district committee. He had some base among people. And Bimanda had some. The rest are fake leaders. I said, well, you can create leaders. Why are you not creating leaders from Muslims or Dalits? They are among the people, they are the majority.

ES: What happened in South 24 Pargana district?

RM: Majority of the district committee wanted me as the district secretary. Even Bimanda said, we from the state leadership shall not impose any names. But on the day of elections he said, we cannot make Razzak the secretary. If he is removed from ministership a wrong message will go to the minorities. I said, you are putting it in an inverted fashion. Instead of a wrong message a good message would be sent that he has left ministership to become a secretary of the communist party. I asked Bimanda, why did not you tell me earlier that you are not making me the secretary? He replied, I thought of your name, but Buddha and Nirupam did not want you. I said, then tell me who should become the secretary? He named Sujan (Chakraborty). It was I who proposed Sujan’s name in the district committee meeting. Then I objected to Reetabrata (Banerjee) being given nomination for Rajya Sabha. He is replacing a Rajbangshi leader. I demanded, give nomination to someone from similar background. Shyamal Chakraborty said, one needs to speak in English in Parliament. Now I find that that CPM has fielded twelve Muslim candidates for Lok Sabha polls. Do all of them speak English? Could not the party make them leaders earlier? At the end of the day, it is the party which makes leaders.

ES: Why didn’t the party listen to you?

RM: The leadership is in the hand of the upper caste. All parties in Bengal have been captured by the upper castes. Among Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s ministers 41% were Brahmin, Kshatriyas. Same in Mamata’s ministers. I was informed the party will suffer heavily for what I was uttering. I replied, I think it would do a whole lot of good. But they did not listen to me. I stopped attending party meetings. I had told someone, if you are thinking that you are going to make Razzak Molla a bonsai you will fail. I called a convention. I showed that 6% (of the population) are upper castes. 27% are Muslims. 23% SC. ST 6%. If they come together it makes 56%-57%. This is a majority number. If you add 40% OBC to this, the upper castes are utterly miniscule. Those who have larger number should have greater share. In democracy one head is one vote. If I have 27 heads I have that many votes. If you have 6 heads you have 6 votes. But you are lording over everything. This we shall not tolerate. We shall break the upper caste hegemony. I announced that West Bengal will have a Dalit chief minister. KPP, problems of greater Koch Bihar will subside as a result. There will be amelioration of deprivation.

ES: How do you respond to the criticism that you are saying all this after the party has given no importance to you?

RM: Could Sujan become the district secretary if I did not want? As I said I will not contest elections. Party gave me a big post in Krishak Sabha. I did not seek power.

ES: According to Sachar committee West Bengal has a handful of Muslims in the government administration. In spite of reservations SC and ST people are deprived. And there was a time when the Left Front government did not even recognize the existence of OBCs. Jyoti Basu was the chief minister for twenty three and half years. Neither did he do anything for them.

RM: I and Halim Abdul Halim made some suggestions to Jyoti babu. He communicated them to the party. But neither was he heeded to. Demise of CPM is inevitable. By demise I mean a CPI-like condition. There was a time when CPI had nation-wide presence and power. Where is it now? After the Lok Sabha elections an infight will break out in CPM. To turn around one needs to change the structure. None has the guts here to change the structure. I suggested a change in the leadership long ago. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has finished off the party.

ES: How could Buddhadeb Bhacharjee wrought such a huge damage all alone? There are so many layers such as the state committee, secretariat, politbureau, and so many people?

RM: The state committee has no role. In the state secretariat a few people call the shots, specially those who are politbureau members. Bimanda is a good man. But he cannot cope with the rest.